Dell Latitude E5510

At first blush, Dell‘s (NASDAQ: DELL) E5510 Latitude notebook PC is a little on the pricey side. The configuration we tested–which includes 3GB of RAM (2.75GB usable by the 32-bit Windows 7), a 320GB hard drive, integrated graphics, and a crisp 1600-by-900 display–has a suggested retail price of $1,490. That may seem a bit stiff, but when I checked the Dell Web site, the unit was being offered at a discounted price of $1,042–much better.

While even $1,042 seems a bit much compared with similarly equipped consumer laptops, the Latitude E5510 offers a number of perks useful in a business environment. Customers buying $25 or more in add-ons can have units customized with specific business applications–even in-house apps can be pre-installed (or images supplied). Every Latitude is built on a common accessory base, so the same docking stations and other accessories can be used, whether you have an E5410, E5510 or 65xx series unit.

The model I tested had an upgraded display–a matte screen LCD (which I prefer to glossy screens) with a native resolution of 1600-by-900 pixels. Colours were crisp, though slightly muted, and standard business apps looked sharp. While you can run games on the Latitude, the performance of Intel’s integrated graphics chip is still anemic. The chip here runs better than past Intel graphics, but it remains too limited for current-generation gaming titles.

Video was a little more problematic. High-def video in the form of WMV-HD clips looked good, but most of my clips are pretty sedate. When I popped in the Serenity DVD, I noticed that dark scenes were muddy, and that action scenes had visible motion artifacting. While not severe, these shortcomings did detract from my overall impression of the display.

Performance is about average for this class of unit, posting a WorldBench score of 107. Our review system shipped with the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional. Oddly, the unit also had 3GB of RAM, but Dell’s Web site seems to offer only 4GB as an option. We’d recommend going with a 64-bit version of Windows 7 for a system with 4GB of RAM.

Expansion is mostly through USB 2.0 ports; the Latitude houses four ports, two on each side. Also present is a standard nine-pin RS-232 serial port, a useful addition for businesses still dependent on serial-equipped peripherals. However, the E5510 does not have eSATA ports, support for USB 3.0, or even a digital video output. The only provision for connecting to an external display is a lone VGA connector. Dell’s docking stations do offer DVI output if you need digital display support.

Networking is quite good, with 802.11n speeds on a par with those of similar systems. I did run into one odd issue: The Latitude couldn’t connect to any other PC on my network, including my server. As it turned out, the issue wasn’t the Dell hardware, or Windows 7. The trial version of Trend Micro’s security software had installed its own NDIS filter driver for network connections. Uninstalling this driver enabled normal network connectivity.

Overall, the Dell Latitude E5510 epitomizes the “get the job done” orientation of business laptops. While pricey, the actual value isn’t in a single notebook, but in multi-unit custom configurability, easy system management, and simple interchange of peripherals. If you’re looking for a solid, unassuming laptop for a small or medium-sized business, the E5510 deserves consideration.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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